A cardinal rule of my life has been to look to the simple pleasures to create pockets of happiness in a seemingly chaotic world. A cigar, a haircut, a simple adventure on a day off... Things like this can provide me with the stability I need to fend off the general weirdness that encroaches on otherwise normal days. Perhaps these simple pleasures are a talisman that wards off such things.
The universe stops running on greased grooves when the ever pressing weirdness encroaches upon the orbit of simple pleasures. . The blasphemy of a simple pleasure being tainted with the radiation of real world concerns is the backdrop of the events of last night.
One ritual Laura and I have taken up is going to a Mapco and getting a fountain Diet Coke. We have turned the trip to Mapco into a warding talismans with a complex ritual to make the magic stick. Like the alchemists of old, we even have named our hunting grounds for our raw materials. There's the "sketchy Mapco" on Spence and Lebanon Road; "our Mapco" at McGavock and Lebanon; and the "redneck Mapco" in Hermitage. Each fountain and location brings its unique twist on the Diet Coke experience.
Last night, after dropping my son Robert off, we found ourselves by the "sketchy Mapco". After a full day of work my head was not quite clear and I almost forgot the solace of the fountain drink. Nearly missing the turn in, I whipped Jane into the sketchy parking lot. Laura and I dismounted my CR-V with the deft precision of an Air Assault trooper unassing a Blackhawk towards our goal.
Before the clerk knew we were in the store, we had cups in hand siphoning off the life giving liquid from the fountain. The first press of the fountain's button told me that something was different. The flow of soda was not uniform and I had to hold the cup close to the nozzle. Thinking there was some CO2 malfunction in the unit, Laura as me greedily "Is it ok?".
Taking a sip I discovered whatever the unique properties the sketchy Mapco's fountain has taken on this evening had delivered the best mix of Diet Coke I had ever tasted. The last time I remember a mix like this was in '91 at a Thorton's in Henderson, Kentucky. I gave my cup to Laura for validation. The only words she could summon up was, "Tasty..", as her eyes rolled slightly back into her head.
The magic of the ritual and the treasure trove was split by the coarse voice of the clerk. "You can't use that. I've broken it down and that will go all over the place."
My cup was full and my shirt was dry. There was no problem here. But the rage of a man denied gave way to pouring my cup out. I would be hanged if I was going to support such poor service. A silent agreement passed between my wife and I. The bewitching liquid was poured down the drain and we slinked out of the store.
Our closest option to satisfy our need for carbonated beverages was the newly refurbished Shell station across the street. Mounting up in Jane we crossed the street. From the parking lot we could see that their fountains didn't have stickers on the individual heads. This was a problem we had run into before when breaking with the Mapco tradition. Like some Old Testament Judge smiting an idolatrous nation, we realized the folly of supporting foreign soda fountains.
By this point we were wondering if we should give up the hunt. We had been stymied at two turns and maybe this was a sign from above that we should pack it in. About that time, another sing passed by us on Lebanon Road. An old, half rusted limo pulling a pop-up camper whizzed past us. Surly this was a sign enough of the apocalypse that we should turn back.
The words "never give up and never surrender" itched in the back of my head. Onward we pressed to "our Mapco". Just past the Briley Parkway overpass, the Heisenberg uncertainty principle set against me. While talking about something that had happened at work that day, a freshly lit cigarette flew from my fingertips. Being the ever agile fellow I am, it had to be some breach in the laws of Physics that caused the malfunction.
Landing in the floor board at my feet, I began to freak out a tad. The duress was not only from the impending combustion of random flammable materials that collect in the floorboard of a car, but the sheer weight of symbolic pressure keeping us from a Diet Coke.
Once again I whipped Jane into the nearest parking lot. Images of WWI pilots burning alive in their cockpits filled my subconscious. The Red Baron did not have his day in the sun with me last night. The burning ember was found and quickly extinguished without the least bit of trouble. The only causality was the debilitating laughter coming from Laura that paralyzed her momentarily.
Forging onward, we arrived at "our Mapco" and got a Diet Coke. No incident, so midgets in clown suits robbing the joint. A simple pour, pay and leave.
What you were thinking there would have been something grand at the end of the road? No, just validation that the talisman of the simple pleasures does work. The trip home was uneventful and the rest of the night was peaceful. So there is some magic in a ritual and the stability only a fountain drink can bring...